THE CALL UP (2016)
Written and Directed by Charles Barker
THE CALL UP is in UK cinemas from 20th May and on DVD & Digital 23rd May
A group of elite gamers are invited to a gaming trial of The Call Up where one winner will walk away with a prize of $100,000. Kitted out with the latest technology of motion capture suits, specialist body armour and virtual reality headsets, the gamers are unleashed into a virtual world like nothing they’ve seen before. Armed with weapons, the gamers are tasked to clear 25 levels of a high rise building teeming with terrorists in order to reach the ground floor. What first starts out as gimmicky fun as the group investigate their surroundings with the state-of-the-art technology they’ve been given, they soon realise that this is no game and death means exactly that both in the virtual world and the real world.
Are you a fan of war games like Call of Duty or Battlefield? Then sci-fi thriller THE CALL UP will be right up your street. Imagine being the actual character in the game, wearing your own body armour and firing your own gun at militant enemies hiding around each and every corner. Exciting, huh? But what about when you get hit? First hit, you’ll loose your body armour. Second hit is fatal unless you use a medikit stick in time to heal your wounds. But with a limited number of medikits and ammo, you’re going to have to be as strategical as you are playing videogames except in this virtual reality world, there is no “try again”, no re-loading from checkpoints. Death means death and pain in the virtual world is just as painful in the real one. This is like no VR experience ever tried and if these gamers knew beforehand what was in store for them, I seriously doubt they would have signed up to the challenge.
Whilst this movie can be enjoyed by anyone, gamers themselves will benefit the most from what the film has to offer. The film opens up with each gamer invited to The Call Up trial. With a big money prize involved, who’d say no? Elite gamers spend a large chunk of their time becoming skilled at their chosen game, ranking on the worldwide leaderboards and becoming known for their gaming prowess under their gamer tag (nickname). You can look to the real gaming community to discover that some gamers are literally celebrities in their own right within gaming circles. Whilst the particular gamer characters in THE CALL UP don’t appear to be quite the 1% of the elite, they’re still experienced enough to be more than capable to compete in the challenge ahead of them and as the film shows, gamers come in all shapes, sizes, ages and genders.
When the group arrives at the gaming venue, run by Zaibatsu Corp (a nice little nod to the crime syndicate in Grand Theft Auto 2), it looks little more than your average technology with tablets dotted about for the gamers to use. When they enter the gameplay room, apart from a few set pieces, there’s not really much to write home about. However, that all changes when they don the suits and helmets and what effect it has on the wearer as they’re transported into another world, one that is merely a hologram on their helmet’s visor but with technology that will make them feel every single bullet and fool their brain into thinking they’re all actually stood in an office block being hounded by masked militants. These scenes are thrilling to watch, especially as the characters split between the real and virtual world as they flip their helmet’s visor up and down in astonishment, confusement and shock at the imaginary world they perceive to be real. This opens up some real dilemmas for the team and with a financial reward at the end, you know that human emotions will come into it as the fight for survival, greed and the prestige of winning is at the forefront of some individuals’ minds.
Whilst we never really get to really know the characters completely, director Charles Barker does a good job of making us care about them in certain ways. We know who the sympathetic characters are and who’re the ones who’s ego will be cause for concern for the rest of the group. The film is much about the battle between the gamers as it is about them versus the game they’ve found themselves signing up for. It’s riveting stuff, especially watching as a gamer myself. Put it this way, I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes, especially knowing how much I rely on others reviving me in online play during Payday: The Heist and the like.
THE CALL UP is a thrilling, nail-biting watch from the get-go and with a solid cast, idea and screenplay, it manages to high score on every level. The slick, modern style of the film is tremendous and the entire concept just shows what original, exciting talent we have here in the UK. If this is what a debut feature film looks like, then sign me up for what’s yet to come!
With VR technology now becoming a reality that most people can get their mitts on, THE CALL UP is a terrifying prospect that could be realer than we imagine!